Natural Remedies: Use Homegrown Herbs and Plants for Healing

The Natural Remedies column shows you how to use homegrown herbs and plants for healing from the garden, including dandelions, spinach, ginkgo, vitamin C from roses, carob pod, eucalyptus tea, aloe and garlic and onions.

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    Christopher cuts prickly pear fruit using brown paper to protect his hand.

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The Natural Remedies column shares information on how to use healthful plants that are often as close as your door. Use these homegrown herbs and plants for healing from the garden. 

The true prophet is never accepted by his own people. By some strange quirk of human nature, we tend to think that only something from a faraway country can be of the greatest value. This blindness also affects us when it comes to herbs and nutrition. We think that the best substances for our health are only those herbs and roots imported from faraway China or India or South American rain forests, sold at tremendous costs in small bottles at the herb shop.

When you scan the shelves of herb shops, it's easy to come to the conclusion that health can be purchased in a bottle. In fact, many businesses push that very idea: "Buy our [expensive] product and you'll be happier, live longer, be free of disease, and have a great sex life, besides:"

In this country, we are surrounded by an unbelievable bounty of nature. Just about everything that you'd want for health and nutrition can be found in your backyard or in the wild, or you can easily grow homegrown herbs and plants for healing. No money need change hands. Shockingly, many of the most nutritious plants on the planet are despised as common weeds, and at any nursery in town, you can buy poisons to kill off these valuable weeds. Such sad ignorance.

Poor Man's Cure-All: Dandelions

Dandelions are probably better for you than anything in your garden, wild or cultivated. An analysis of 100 grams (about a cup) of dandelion greens by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows 14,000 IU of vitamin A, 35 mg of vitamin C, 397 mg of potassium, 66 mg of phosphorus, 187 mg of calcium, and 36 mg of magnesium. Dandelion greens are also the richest source of beta-carotene, with 8.4 mg per cup. By contrast, carrots—considered an excellent source of beta carotene—contain 6.6 mg per cup. Only young dandelion greens are good in salads, and the older bitter leaves can be cooked like spinach or added to mixed vegetable dishes. And the young dandelion roots can also be cooked.

Nature's "Mineral Tablet": Lambs-Quarter

The health food store shelves are full of pills, including mineral tablets. But nature provides an excellent alternative-one that you take advantage of by eating. This is lamb's-quarter, a spinach relative found worldwide in the wild. It probably grows in your garden even if you don't plant it. Used raw in salad or in juice mixes, 100 grams of lamb's-quarter (about a cup) contains about 80 mg of vitamin C, 11,600 IU of vitamin A, 72 mg of phosphorus, 309 mg of calcium, and small amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. These figures are slightly lower when you cook the lamb's-quarter for a spinach replacement, or in soups, egg dishes, or vegetable dishes. You could nearly survive on lamb's-quarter alone!

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